Judy Garland’s legendary concert years officially began when she left MGM Studios in 1950 and gave her first live stage show at The Palladium in London, England on April 9, 1951, followed by her record-breaking run at The Palace Theater in New York City on October 16, 1951.
When Judy signed her first film contract with MGM in September of 1935, she was just 13-years-old but already a seasoned veteran of the Vaudeville stage. If any performer of the 20th Century was “born in a trunk” it was Judy Garland. She was 2 1/2 years old when she made her stage debut at her father’s theater, the New Grand Theater in her birthplace of Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Judy’s parents (Frank and Ethel Gumm) were Vaudevillians themselves having toured around the country as “Jack and Virginia Lee – Sweet Southern Singers” before settling down to start a family. Judy and her two older sisters began as “The Gumm Sisters” then later, “The Garland Sisters” after the family relocated to California.
For some fans, Judy’s MGM years were just a detour from what she loved most, which was performing for a live audience. However, for better or worse, it was MGM that put Judy on the world stage and gave her recognition and a repertoire that, coupled with her incredible natural stage presence, ensured her phenomenal success after she left the studio.
During her concert years, Judy made a few detours back into films (most notably the 1954 masterpiece A Star Is Born) and into television (most notably “The Judy Garland Show” series in 1963/64), but for the remainder of her life, she was known as the greatest live performer of her time. She was called “The World’s’ Greatest Entertainer” which was not hype. She really was and – to date – still is. Judy Garland occupies a unique space in the world of 20th-century entertainment. She was a Vaudevillian; radio star; the greatest female film musical star of all time; Oscar winner; best-selling recording artist; Grammy winner; TV star; concert star; Tony winner; and a true living legend.
This page details the beginning of Judy’s concert career through the end of the 50s. Judy gave so many concerts, I created two separate pages for the 1960s (1960-1965 & 1966-1969). The entries in all pages are peppered with photos, photo galleries, newspaper clippings, audio files, and videos.
Much of the information and media on this page was provided by many wonderful Garland fans as well as from the collection of the author plus the many biographies and other books about Judy Garland, her peers, and film studies in general.
A big shout out to Scott Schechter’s still invaluable 2002 book “Judy Garland – The Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Legend” as well as newspaper online archives.
Judy’s first time “in concert” as an adult happened while she was one of MGM’s top stars. She made a one-time-only concert appearance at the Robin Hood Dell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 1, 1943.
Even at this early stage the idea of Judy giving a concert when she was known to the general public as a movie musical star wasn’t as much of a stretch as it might have seemed at first. Judy had a childhood of Vaudeville experience prior to her contract with MGM and she had already been touring the country giving live shows supporting the troops and the war effort via the USO (and would again that following September 1943). She had been on a few personal appearance tours in the late 1930s which were short stage shows given between showings of the films she was promoting, most notably the stage shows in New York City in August 1939 during the premiere run of The Wizard of Oz. MGM knew very well that Judy Garland had the talent and charisma to be able to hold the attention of a live audience which is probably one of the main reasons they allowed her a little time off from the studio for this concert.
15.000 people packed the Robin Hood Dell amphitheater, well past its 6,500 regular capacity. Another 15,000 people sat on adjoining lawns, and in parking lots, while another 5,000-10,000 people left when they could not get within listening distance. Judy wore the costume she wore in the “Paging Mr. Greenback” finale number that was cut from her recent film hit, Presenting Lily Mars.
March 30, 1951: A new chapter in Judy’s life began when she set sail on the “Ile de France” for Europe and her opening at the London Palladium which heralded not only her great triumphant comeback but also her “Concert Years.”
Photos: Judy with fans before leaving New York; Judy poses on deck; newspaper notices (published the following day).
April 9, 1951 – May 5, 1951
THE LONDON PALLADIUM, LONDON, ENGLAND
This was the start of Judy’s legendary career comeback and the start of her legendary concert years.
Judy had parted with MGM in September of 1950. The status of her career was up in the air. Most in the industry assumed it was over. At least it seemed her film career was finished. Bing Crosby came to the rescue and had Judy guest on several episodes of his popular weekly radio show. Those appearances kept her in the public eye, and she didn’t have to try to stay thin for the cameras. More radio offers came in as did some talk of a possible Broadway show. Instead, Judy went back to her Vaudeville roots. Guided by her musical mentor Roger Edens and her new manager (and soon-to-be husband), the idea was that Judy would bring Vaudeville back to The Palace Theatre in New York. This necessitated an overhaul of that slightly dilapidated theater. In the meantime, Judy tried out her new stage show and persona in the country that adored her possibly more than the United States, and that country was England.
When Judy opened at the Palladium, she was a smash hit. If she had any doubts about her abilities on stage, or if the audiences would love her, those doubts were dashed after she opened. She was a popular and critical success above and beyond anyone’s expectations. The unique experience of witnessing Judy Garland on stage was something that no one was prepared for, but we’re so glad she took this route and that she blessed us by sharing her incredible talent.
Below are performances from Judy’s run at the Palladium recorded in April/May of 1951. These are a joy to listen to, as Judy is clearly enjoying her unique connection with the British audiences who, as we know, were crazy about her!
May 21 – 27, 1951
THE EMPIRE THEATER, GLASGOW, SCOTLAND
Photos: Judy with Alfred Ellsworth, MBE, on May 21; Judy entering the theater and in concert; photos of the theater; lastly, an account of Judy’s show written by Tom McGee and published in 2001 in a Betty Grable fan publication. Although McGee has his month incorrect, the article is a wonderful read (tap on the image to read it. A big thanks to Kim Lundgreen for sharing the article and the photos.
May 28, 1951 – June 2, 1951
June 18 – 24, 1951
THE EMPIRE THEATRE, LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND
On the 24th, Judy performed at the Blackpool Opera House, also in Liverpool, and not at the Empire Theater. The reason for the one-night switch in venues is unknown.
Photo: Scan of the notice for the Opera House in Blackpool, provided by Bobby Waters. Thanks, Bobby!
June 25, 1951
THE LONDON PALLADIUM, LONDON, ENGLAND
Judy returned to the Palladium for the “All-Star Midnight Matinee Benefit” for the family of the late comic Sid Field. She sang “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby” and “Over the Rainbow.”
Critic Kenneth Tynan said: She has only to open her throat, and send her voice, pleading and appealing, up to the roof, to leave no doubt that talent like hers is independent of age and appearance. The show had lasted 3 1/2 hours before she came on, stood in a pale violet spot, and sang “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody.” The house rose to her in great crashing waves of applause, the kind for which the Palladium was built.
July 12, 1951 through 18, 1951
THE HIPPODROME, BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND
This was the last engagement of Judy’s tour of the British Isles. Next up, her great comeback at The Palace Theater in New York City.
Judy’s daughter, Liza Minnelli, traveled to the UK from the US to be with her mom. They were reunited in Birmingham.
October 16, 1951 through February 24, 1952
THE PALACE THEATER, NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Judy’s first appearance on this already legendary stage. She made Broadway history by bringing Vaudeville back to the Palace as well as establishing her as a stage performer like no other. Bringing Vaudeville back was a huge achievement
“Judy Garland in concert” became an event, and everyone who saw her would never forget the experience of seeing her live on the stage.
The line up of songs that Judy sang, after the standard Vaudeville first half of the show, were: “Call the Papers”; “On The Town”; “Judy At The Palace Medley”; “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby”; “Love Is Sweeping The Country”; “Judy’s Olio” (“You Made Me Love You”/”For Me And My Gal’/”The Boy Next Door”/”The Trolley Song”); “Get Happy”; “A Couple of Swells”; “Over the Rainbow.” There were some changes over the run, with encores added and the dropping of “Love Is Sweeping The Country.”
The original four-week run was extended to a record nineteen weeks due to the incredible demand for tickets and the show’s success. Judy took a few days off in mid-November (the 11th through the 16th) due to the strain of doing thirteen shows a week (!). After returning on November 16 she then took five days in mid-December for the holidays. The final night, February 24, 1952, was recorded and has been available on various record and CD releases over the years.
For her achievement, Judy received a special Tony Award on March 30, 1952.
After her triumph at The Palace, Judy took a well-deserved break. She and Sid Luft vacationed in Palm Beach, Florida.
On March 21, 1952, Judy and Luft went to Nassau in the Bahamas to attend the Bahamas Country Club Amateur Cold Cup Tournament.
Judy’s divorce from Vincente Minnelli became final on this day as well, and she was granted custody of Liza with generous provisions made for Liza to spend time with her father. To their credit, there was never any issues between Judy and Vincente in regards to both spending ample time with daughter Liza Minnelli.
Sid played quite a bit of golf during their vacation. On March 16, the Palm Beach Post reported that Sid had played golf that previous Friday (March 14) with none other than the Duke of Windsor, Charles Cushing, and Robert D. Young (no relation to the actor Robert Young).
Also on this date, columnist Sheilah Graham reported that Sid wanted to purchase the screen right to the musical, “Finian’s Rainbow,” to co-star Judy with Donald O’Connor.
March 30, 1952: Judy was awarded a special Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award, for her Unique Contribution to Theatre 1951-52” at a special ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, in commemoration of her smash 19-week run at the Palace Theatre.
At some later date, Judy had the Beverly Hills jeweler “Trabert & Hoeffler” mount the heavy, silver-plate 3” diameter coin-shaped award as the hinged lid of a .545 sterling silver reproduction of a ca. 1700 John Dixwell original drinking cup. She reportedly kept the award on prominent display in her library throughout the remainder of her life. It was acquired by the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, directly from her third husband, Sid Luft. In 2011 it was sold at auction for $30,000.
To see more items from that auction, check out The Judy Room’s 2011 Year in Review (PDF).
April 21, 1952 through May 18, 1952
THE LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
Judy’s opening night at the Los Angeles Philharmonic was the stellar event of the year. Anyone who was anyone in Hollywood and Los Angeles was there as you can see from the wonderful photos in the photo gallery. Judy played for four weeks grossing $220,000. Her salary was $25,000 per week; she had been paid $15,000 per week for her recent blockbuster run at The Palace Theater in New York. This Philharmonic opening night was her return to her “home base” of Hollywood where she hadn’t performed, aside from a few radio appearances, since leaving MGM a year and a half prior. This engagement solidified and completed her comeback.
BONUS: A Quick Interview with Judy (zip file) (and Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz) recorded on opening night.
SHORT RADIO BREAK
From late April to early May 1952, Judy recorded three separate appearances on Bing Crosby’s radio show, “The Bing Crosby Show,” broadcast over CBS-Radio. Crosby’s shows were pre-recorded a week or two in advance which is why so many have survived for us to enjoy.
May 21, 1952: Judy sang “When You’re Smiling”; “Mean To Me” and duetted with Bing on “When You Wore A Tulip.”
Listen to the entire show here:
May 28, 1952: Judy sang “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby,” “Carolina In The Morning,” and, with Crosby, “Noodlin’ Rag”,” “Isle Of Capri,” “April In Paris,” and “For Me And My Gal.”
Listen to “For Me And My Gal” here:
Listen to “Isle of Capri” here:
June 4, 1952: Judy sang “You Made Me Love You,” “Over The Rainbow,” and with Bing: “You’re Just In Love,” “Walking My Baby Back Home.” “Sound Off,” “In My Merry Oldsmobile,” “Hello, My Baby,” and “Walking My Baby Back Home.”
Listen to “You Made Me Love You” here:
Listen to “Walking My Baby Back Home” here:
Listen to “You’re Just In Love” here:
Listen to “Over The Rainbow” here:
Listen to the entire show here:
Judy and Bing are magic together! The performances have been released on various LP and CDs, including the recent deluxe 4-CD boxed set “Classic Duets.”
May 26, 1952 through June 22, 1952
THE CURRAN THEATER, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
This was Judy’s last engagement of her 1951-1952 “Palace” Vaudeville show. During her time at the Curran, Judy announced her engagement to her manager/boyfriend Sid Luft.
On June 8th, at 6 p.m., Judy and Luft were married at the Paicines Ranch just 10 miles south of Hollister, California, which was owned by Sids’ friends Bob and Katherine Law. The newlyweds drove back to San Francisco (90 miles north of Hollister) the next day so Judy could continue her run at the Curran.
The final night (June 22) was recorded. Listen to “A Couple of Swells” here:
LONG BREAK IN THE CONCERT SCHEDULE
For the rest of the year and into early 1953 Judy had two very good reasons for taking a long break: She and Sid Luft married (her third, his second) and she gave birth to her second child and second daughter, Lorna Luft.
On June 8, 1952, Judy and Sid Luft were married at the Paicines Ranch just 10 miles south of Hollister, California, which was owned by Sids’ friends Bob and Katherine Law. The newlyweds drove back to San Francisco (90 miles north of Hollister) the next day so Judy could continue her run at the Curran Theater in the city.
June 13, 1952: Judy appeared with her brother-in-law Jack Cathcart on a U.S. Treasury Department recording meant for broadcast over public radio over the following months (at the discretion of the stations). Judy sang her “Olio” and “A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow.” Cathcart and his Orchestra accompanied Judy as well as performing the “Garland Overture.”
Listen to that broadcast here:
June 29, 1952: Judy was honored by The Friars Club at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. She was only the second woman in the Friar’s fifty-year history to be honored with a testimonial evening, Sophie Tucker was the first. Judy sang the “Judy At The Palace” medley and “Over The Rainbow” to end the festivities.
October 30, 1952: Judy filled in as host of “The Bing Crosby Show/The General Electric Program” on CBS Radio broadcast out of Hollywood. Judy stepped in so Crosby could take care of his ailing wife.
Judy sang: “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”; “Wish You Were Here”; “A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow”; “Carolina In The Morning”; and “You Belong To Me.”
Listen to “Wish You Were Here” here:
Listen to “You Belong To Me” here:
Listen to the entire show here:
November 21, 1952: Judy’s second child (and first with her husband Sid Luft), Lorna Luft, was born – weighing 6 pounds, 4 ounces – at St. John’s Hospital in Los Angeles. Lorna was nameless for four days while her parents debated over naming her Nora or Amanda before ultimately choosing Lorna.
Judy’s break in her concert schedule continued into 1953.
On February 16, 1953, Judy performed the role of “Liza Elliott” in the CBS Radio “Lux Radio Theater” adaptation of “Lady in the Dark.” Judy sang “How Lovely To Be Me”; “This Is New”; “The Rights of Womankind”; and “My Ship.”
The show, which was Judy’s last major radio performance, was recorded and has since been released on LP and CD.
Listen to “My Ship” here:
Listen to “How Lovely To Be Me” here:
Listen to “This Is New” here:
Photos: Judy performing “Lady in the Dark”; Judy and John Lund in the studio; newspaper clippings.
April 3, 1953: Judy made her first studio recordings for records since 1947 when she recorded “Send My Baby Back To Me”; “Without A Memory”; “Go Home Joe”; and “Heartbroken” for Columbia Records. The first two were released on May 4, 1953, the last two were released on June 29, 1953. Listen to the recordings below:
“Send My Baby Back To Me”
“Without A Memory”
“Go Home Joe”
Photos: Promotional pic for Columbia Records; Judy in the recording studio; newspaper ad.
April 29, 1953
THE BLUE GRASS FESTIVAL, LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY
Judy’s only concert of 1953 was this one, as the headliner for the Blue Grass Festival which was a new Derby Week event. She was backed by Faughn Monroe and His Orchestra. Judy concluded her set with “My Old Kentucky Home.”
While in Lexington, Judy visited patients at the Shriner’s Hospital (see the gallery).
This was Judy’s first time on the stage in almost a full year. In the interim (see above), she appeared on several radio shows, entered into an agreement with Warner Bros. (through her and husband Sid Luft’s production company, Transcona) to produce nine films, three of which were to star Judy. Only 1954’s A Star Is Born was made (see below),
A STAR IS BORN
After her one concert in 1953 (above), Judy took some time off in the summer of 1953. She spent the bulk of 1953 & 1954 working on her film comeback, A Star Is Born. Her first official day of work on the film was August 18, 1953. To say that A Star Is Born is a milestone in Judy’s life and career is redundant. So is recognizing its status as a true film masterpiece and Judy’s performance being one of the top three greatest of all her film performances. At this point in 1953, it was the perfect project for her. It allowed her and her family to put down some roots in Los Angeles giving Judy some much-needed stability. She had been based in LA since April of 1952, but the family didn’t move into their new home in the Holmby Hills until the fall of 1953 after she had started work on the film. It was their home base until 1960.
Judy enjoyed working on A Star Is Born. She had an amount of control over the production that she wasn’t allowed at MGM. Her husband, Sid Luft, was the co-producer, which made her happy. Although when the filming ran overtime and over budget and Judy wore herself out, it was still a great experience for her and a triumph of her supreme and unique talents. The film gave her the chance to show them all off. She was a true “triple threat.” Actually, she was a “quadruple threat”: singing, dancing, comedy, and drama.
The success and triumph of A Star Is Born was cut off at the knees when, after the star-studded premieres and stellar reviews, Warner Bros. gave in to the (allegedly few) complaints from theater owners that the length of the film minimized the number of showings per day and therefore the overall daily profits. George Cukor was out of the country so the studio simply chopped out chunks of the film, a total of 27 minutes worth, including two of Judy’s musical numbers. The cuts hurt everyone involved, especially Judy. The result was an uneven film that although popular, it didn’t live up to the public’s expectations from the stellar reviews. Warner Bros. lost interest in it and in spite of all the money they spent, didn’t promote it when the Academy Awards came around. In spite of that, A Star Is Born was nominated for six Oscars: Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Art Direction – Color, Best Costume Design – Color, Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, and Best Song. It didn’t win any. The fact that “Three Coins In The Fountain” from the film of the same name beat “The Man That Got Away” from A Star Is Born is a good example of the attitudes toward the film at that time. The nominations were almost perfunctory.
What wasn’t perfunctory was the fact that Judy was seen as a shoe-in for Best Actress. Most people in the industry knew of the cuts and had loved the original version and loved Judy’s performance regardless. Judy was the clear front runner. Then along came Grace Kelly and her “daring” to be “ugly” for The Country Girl. The race was on, with Judy and Grace neck and neck. Grace was the hot young thing, the “classy beauty” from high society who became an actress and had several recent hits under her belt. The Country Girl was her toughest acting challenge to date. Judy was seen as supremely talented. One in a million. She was the Hollywood veteran who had overcome adversity and triumphed. She had also burned a few bridges and allegedly the personnel at MGM were not happy that she went to rival Warner Bros. for her comeback film after having spent 15 years at their studio. But everyone loves a good comeback story so Judy was seen to have a slight edge over Grace. On Oscar night, March 30, 1955, it was Grace’s name that was called, not Judy’s. The loss crushed Judy and ended once and for all any hope of her production company (Transcona Enterprises) making more films.
In spite of the Oscar loss, Judy still had cause to celebrate, and she did. On Oscar night she had just given birth to her third child and only son, Joe Luft. Attesting to the fact that it was assumed that Judy would win, NBC-TV went to great lengths to set up cameras and a live hook up (no small feat at that time) so they could broadcast her acceptance speech from her hospital bed in her hospital room. The incident became one of Judy’s most well-known stories. She would joke that after the network had gone to so much trouble, when Judy’s name wasn’t called, everyone just packed up and left without saying a word and in minutes she was left alone. “But I was nominated!” she quipped.
Judy wasn’t down for long. In June 1955 she went into rehearsals for a seven-city concert tour of “The Judy Garland Show.” Her first engagement for this new show took place in San Diego, California, on July 8, 1955. See below.
After the star-studded premiere of A Star Is Born in Hollywood on September 29, 1954, Judy took things easy and with good reason. She was pregnant and had been since August. However, she still managed to make a few appearances, including both the New York and Chicago premieres of the film.
October 11, 1954: The New York premiere of A Star Is Born was another big event for Warner Bros. The film premiered at two theaters at the same time: the Victoria and the Capitol. George Jessell was emcee again, as he had been for the world premiere in September. Afterward, there was a dinner held at the Waldorf.
Jinx Falkenburg interviewed Judy at the premiere for the NBC-TV Radio show “Best of All” hosted by Kenneth Banghart. Listen to the show here (not that the non-Garland sections have been edited out).
The great event for Judy of early 1955 (obviously one of the greatest of her entire life) was the birth of her third child and only son, Joseph Wiley Luft. Joe was born on March 29, 1955, at 2:16 a.m. at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles. He weighed 5 pounds, 8 ounces.
March 30, 1955: NBC-TV planned to televise Judy live from her hospital room, during the Academy Awards broadcast on NBC-TV. She had just given birth to her son Joe the previous day.
Everyone was so sure Judy would win Best Actress for A Star Is Born that the network went to the trouble and expense of setting up a special scaffolding outside her hospital room window, as well as taking over her room, to ensure that they captured her acceptance speech. Unfortunately, Judy did not win, losing to Grace Kelly’s performance in The Country Girl.
A Star Is Born was also nominated for Best Actor (James Mason); Best Song (“The Man That Got Away”); Best Score; Best Costume Design; and Best Art Direction. It didn’t win any. Aside from Judy’s loss, it’s incredible to think that “Three Coins In The Fountain” won Best Song over “The Man That Got Away.”
Later, Judy would share her funny story about how the TV crew simply packed up and left without saying a word after the announcement was made. Always the optimist, Judy was able to turn this great loss into a funny anecdote.
Today, the film is considered a masterpiece and most people have never heard of (or even seen) The Country Girl.
Photos: The scaffolding outside Judy’s hospital room; newspaper clippings.
July 8 & 9, 1955
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
The first of a planned seven-city tour of “The Judy Garland Show.” This was Judy’s return to the concert stage after spending 1953 & 1954 filming A Star Is Born, losing the Oscar in 1955, giving birth to her third and last child, and only son, Joe Luft, and some much-needed rest.
Judy went into rehearsals for the show in June of 1955 after the announcement of the tour was made on April 19, 1955. The announcement noted that the tour would open up to a nationwide tour in the fall that would include an additional thirteen cities including the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, and Orchestra Hall in Chicago, Illinois ending with a two-month engagement at the Winter Garden Theater in New York City.
For these San Diego shows, Judy soloed on: “Carolina In The Morning,’ “While We’re Young,” “Judy’s Olio (You Made Me Love You/For Me And My Gal/The Boy Next Door/The Trolley Song)”, “A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow,” “The Man That Got Away,” “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby,” “A Couple of Swells,” “Liza,” and “Over The Rainbow.” The shows weren’t yet the one-woman solo concerts that Judy became famous for. At this point, the show was in an expanded Vaudeville format, more like a revue, that featured Judy on stage for the first half but not doing her “concert.” She took part in helping out the featuring various Vaudeville-type act. Judy gave her solo concert during the second act. For this tour, Judy’s guests were Frank Fontaine, The Hi-Los, The Jerry Gray Orchestra, and The Weir Brothers. The brothers joined Judy in the “Running Wild” first-act finale.
July 11, 1955
MUNICIPAL AUDITORIUM, LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA
The proceeds from this show went to the Exceptional Children’s Foundation, to benefit retarded (as they were called in those days) children.
Judy’s songs: “Let’s Have A Party,” “The Man That Got Away,” “Carolina In The Morning,” “While We’re Young,” “A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow,” “Judy’s Olio,” “Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart,” “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby,” “After You’ve Gone,” “A Couple Of Swells,” “Over The Rainbow,” “Liza,” and “Swanee.”
Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Humphrey Bogart, and other celebrities rented a bus to go and see Judy. They also came up on stage after her performance.
July 19, 1955
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Just prior to this show, Judy’s husband and manager, Sid Luft, announced the cancellation of the rest of the tour. The cancellations included planned shows in Spokane, Washington on July 20 and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on September 14). He cited a clause in the concert contract that stated Judy could cancel the dates without repercussions. The reason for the cancelation was that Judy signed a lucrative contract with CBS-TV for her official TV debut.
The third article shown here notes that the Sioux Falls Greater Attractions organization, who had booked Judy’s show, were considering filing charges against Judy with the Actors Equity Association of New York. The other cities that had been canceled had apparently already filed protest charges.
CAPITOL RECORDS & TELEVISION DEBUT
In July 1955, Judy’s husband and manager, Sid Luft, accepted a lucrative offer for Judy to make her television debut on the premiere episode of CBS-TV’s weekly variety show, “The Ford Star Jubilee.” This meant the cancelation of the rest of Judy’s tour of “The Judy Garland Show” which had just begun in early July 1955. There was a clause in the contract that stipulated that they could cancel if something like a TV contract came up.
This early cancelation may have also been prompted by Judy’s new recording contract with Capitol Records. The contract was for five years but was renewed in 1960. Just stayed with the label until the spring of 1966. The contract produced some of Judy’s finest recordings including the historic and never-out-of-print 1961 “Judy at Carnegie Hall.”
Judy’s first session for Capitol was on August 25, 1955. She recorded four songs for the album “Miss Show Business.” The album was a tie-in to the upcoming Ford Star special, which featured Judy singing many of the songs from the album. The completed album (Judy’s first studio 12 inc “album”) was released the day after the special premiered on September 24, 1955.
Below: The only video of Judy singing “Over the Rainbow” in her tramp outfit as she sang it in so many concerts, from her TV debut on “The Ford Star Jubilee.” Also shown is a tie-in ad promoting the show and the Capitol album, “Miss Show Business.“
SECOND CAPITOL ALBUM & SECOND TELEVISION SPECIAL
Judy had no concerts in early 1956. Her time was spent recording her second album for Capitol Records titled “Judy” arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle. Judy’s sessions happened on March 19, 26, 27, and 31. The album was released on October 10, 1956.
On April 8, 1956, Judy’s second TV special was broadcast live from CBS-TV in Hollywood, California. “The General Electric Theater” was hosted by Ronald Reagan and featured Judy singing “I Feel A Song Coming On”; “Maybe I’ll Come Back”; “Last Night When We Were Young”; “Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries”; “Dirty Hands, Dirty Face”; “Come Rain Or Come Shine”; and “April Showers.” As with her 1955 special, the program mirrored her recent album for Capitol Records, “Judy.”
July 16, 1956 through August 19, 1956
THE NEW FRONTIER HOTEL, LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
Judy’s nightclub debut. She was a huge success. 7,000 people were turned away opening weekend. Due to the response the original four week engagement was expanded for an additional week. Judy gave a total of seventy shows, two shows each night (7:30 p.m. and 12:30 p.m.) that lasted approximately sixty eight minutes and included two production numbers: “An Intro By Judy’s Boyfriend,” “This Is A Party” (Judy with ‘Boyfriends”), “Judy’s Olio,” “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” “This Is Our Spot” (Judy’s “Boyfriends”), “Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home” (production number with the boys), “A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow,” “Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe,” “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby,” “This Is Our Spot” (reprise by Judy’s “Boyfriends”), “Lucky Day” (production number with the boys); “A Couple Of Swells,” and “Over The Rainbow.” Sometimes Judy would encore with “Liza” and/or “After You’ve Gone” and/or “Swanee.”
Listen to Judy’s rendition of “Lucky Day” from this engagement here:
On August 4, Judy lost her voice and Jerry Lewis stepped in to help out (see photos below). Also below is a wonderful video created by Labrador Productions for the 2011 “Judy in New York” fan fest, which features video from this engagement married to the audio of “Lucky Day.” This gives us a great idea of how much fun this production number was!
September 26, 1956
THE PALACE THEATER, NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Judy’s triumphant return to the Palace Theater, which is where the legend of Judy Garland as “The World’s Greatest Entertainer” began in 1951.
Judy was scheduled for four weeks but of course that wouldn’t do and the engagement was extended another four weeks. The show as in the Vaudeville format, with Judy appearing on the second half of the program. Judys lineup of songs was approximately the same as her Vegas show, with a new opening medley arranged by Roger Edens: “New York, New York” (the original Bernstein song from “On The Town” not the later Kander & Ebb song written for Judy’s daughter Liza Minnelli)/”Take Me Back To Manhattan”/”Give My Regards To Broadway”/”The Sidewalks of New York.” Just prior to her closing with “Over The RAinbow” Judy performed an elaborate version of “Be A Clown.”
Judys’ daughter, Liza Minnelli, age 10, made her official stage debut opening night, dancing while Judy sang “Swanee.”
Also on this night, Jinx Falkenburg interviewed Judy for her radio show. Here is that interview (the sound isn’t the best but it’s all we have), referred to as “Jinx and Judy”:
From December 17 through the 26, Judy missed a week’s worth of shows due to her physical exhaustion of doing eight shows a week. The Palace closed down during that time.
Judy was able to make a few personal appearances during that time off, showing up at the “Night of Stars” benefit on November 19th and Elsa Maxwell’s big party on December 26.
January 8, 1957
THE PALACE THEATER, NEW YORK, NEW YORK
The final night of Judy’s Palace engagement which ran for seventeen week. The Palace wanted her to stay through March which would have broken her record set at the theater in 1951-1952 which was nineteen weeks.
After a two-week break in New York, Judy returned to California where she recorded the “Alone” album for Capitol Records.
CAPITOL RECORDS “ALONE”
As with early 1956, early 1957 saw Judy on another short break from her concerts and back at Capitol Records working on her third album, the sublime “Alone.” This time the songs were arranged and conducted by Gordon Jenkins. Judy recorded songs on February 6, 22, and March 6. It was released on May 6, 1957, and remains one of her best.
May 1, 1957
THE FLAMINGO HOTEL, LAS VEGAS NEVADA
Judy returned to Vegas for this three-week engagement. The ninety-minute act included “Lucky Day,” “How About Me?,” “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby,” “Mean To me,” “By Myself,” “The Man That Got Away” (which became a permanent part of her repertoire from this point forward), “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow,” “A Couple of Swells,” and “Over The Rainbow.”
During the engagement, Judys eldest daughter, eleven-year-old Liza Minnelli, sang “In Between” (on May 18th) and “Swanee.” Judy’s second daughter, four-and-a-half-year-old Lorna Luft, sang “Jingle Bells” which was the first song Judy ever sang on stage at her official stage debut back in 1924 when she was just two-and-a-half-years-old.
May 30, 1957
THE RIVIERA THEATRE, DETROIT, MICHIGAN
For this one-week engagement, Judy did her recent Vegas act. For the second half of her June 1st show, she had to be carried on stage due to an injured ankle – but the show must go on!
Here is a rare recording that features part of one of Judy’s rehearsals, secretly recorded by columnist Shirley Eder who was visiting at the time and interviewed Judy’s vocal coach, Billy Ward. The recording cuts to Ms. Eder chatting with Ward, then goes back to bits of rehearsal.
June 10, 1957
TEXAS STATE FAIR, DALLAS, TEXAS
The first night of a two week engagement at the Texas State Fair. Judy was reunited with her sister, Jimmie, during this engagement. Jimmie was currently living in Dallas.
During the June 15 show, Judy only made it through four songs before leaving the stage and canceling the rest of that night’s show. She was broken up due ot the new of the death of her good friend (and MGM choreographer) Robert Alton.
June 27, 1957
THE GREEK THEATER, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
This was Judy’s last stop on her “Vegas tour.” It was Judy’s first show in her hometown in five years.
To mark the occasion, the Barker Brothers store in downtown Los Angeles featured a display of Garland memorabilia from the collection of Judy’s “Number One Fan,” the famous (infamous?) Wayne Martin.
September 16, 1957
LOEW’S CAPITOL THEATRE, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Judy’s first concert after taking most of the summer off after her “Vegas tour” ended. “Variety” noted: “This is a different kind of theatrical engagement. It’s a love affair between Judy Garland and the folks who are paying up to a $6.60 top this week, to hear her sing at the Capitol theatre here. Miss Garland makes a quick rapport with her audience, and you can feel the affection they have for her from the time she opens up with her big, deep voice.”
Some color silent home movie footage taken from the audience during the Saturday matinee exists and features Judy bringing daughter Lorna and son Joey up on the stage. Judy sang “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby” to Lorna since, as Judy claimed, “Lorna likes the loud ones,” and “Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe” with Joey on her lap.
Judy’s last night of the engagement was September 21. The final night was scheduled to be the 22nd but she came down with the Asian Flu and developed a temperature of 103 degrees.
September 26, 1957
MASTBAUM THEATRE, PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA
Another week-long engagement. Judy twisted her ankle and so she did the October 1st show sitting down but she had also strained her voice due to a relapse of the flu. The final two shows (the matinee and evening show on October 2) were canceled.
October 16, 1957
DOMINION THEATRE, LONDON, ENGLAND
This was Judy’s first time in London since the beginning of her Concert Years in 1951 at the London Palladium. Judy and family had sailed from New York to London on October 4, arriving on the 9th.
On October 12, 1957, Judy recorded “It’s Lovely To Be Back in London.” The single was pressed on a special one-sided record and given to audiences at the Dominion. It was subsequently released in record stores on 45 rpm Capitol/EMI #CL-14791 and 78 rpm Capitol/EMI #14791, both with the song “By Myself” from the “Alone” album on the “B” side.
For Judy’s appearance, the theater spent $180,000 on refurbishing. Advance ticket sales were $100,000.
At this point, Judy’s concert format was still in the Vaudeville format, with Judy playing the second act. The first acts included various Vaudeville acts and closed with comedian Alan King. Judy then went on after the intermission.
This engagement is notable in that it featured the premiere of the now-famous “Garland Overture” arranged by Buddy Bregman, who was working with Judy that summer/fall and worked on her entire act in early 1958. Judy’s act at the Dominion included: “It’s So Lovely To Be Back In London,” “I Feel A Song Coming On,” “Judy’s Olio” (at this point “The Boy Next Door” had been cut from this medley), “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” “The Man That Got Away,” “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby,” “Lucky Day,” “How about Me”, “A Couple Of Swells,” and “Over The Rainbow.” She usually encored with “Me And My Shadow” and “Swanee.” The conductor was Gordon Jenkins.
November 17, 1957
THE ROYAL COMMAND PERFORMANCE VARIETY SHOW, THE LONDON PALLADIUM, LONDON, ENGLAND
Judy was allowed to perform three songs (instead of the usual two allotted to each performer) for this benefit, and she sang “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby,” “A Couple Of Swells” (after her “boyfriends” had performed to give her time to change into her tramp costume), and “Over The Rainbow.” After the show, Afterward, Judy and the rest of the performers got to meet Queen Elizabeth.
The show was broadcast over the radio, and “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby” and “Over The Rainbow” survive.
Rock-A-Bye Your Baby
Over The Rainbow
December 26, 1957
THE FLAMINGO, LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
This was the first night of a scheduled three-week engagement for Judy’s return to The Flamingo in Las Vegas, Nevada. Judy was paid $40,00 a week and introduced a new “My Fair Lady” medley. She also performed a few numbers with singer/dancer Bobby Van (including the Irving Berlin duet “You’re Just In Love”).
On the 27th, Judy developed vocal problems and had to cancel four nights of shows. Drama ensued when Judy returned to the stated on the 31st. The New Year’s Eve audience was extra rowdy due to the fact that the management allowed drinks to continue to be poured during the show, which was not a part of the contract. As a result, Judy walked off the stage after repeated attempts to quiet the crowd. She canceled the rest of the engagement prompting lawsuits by both parties. Judy finally won and was awarded $22,000.
March 20, 1958
THE TOWN AND COUNTRY CLUB, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
The first night of a three-and-a-half week engagement. The opening night show was scheduled to start at 10:30 p.m. but didn’t start until 11:00 p.m. due to a delay caused by a recent twenty-four-hour snowstorm! Judy’s opening act (at this point her shows were still in a pseudo-Vaudeville format), including singer/dancer Bobby Van, and ran for an hour and a half. Judy performed the second hour which included the songs: “Brooklyn” (special material); “Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries,” “How About Me?,” “Judy’s Olio,” “When The Sun Comes Out,” “Mean To Me,” “After You’ve Gone,” “By Myself,” “I Guess I’ll Have To Change My Plan,” “When You Wore A Tulip” (the latter two with Bobby Van), “Maybe I’ll Come Back,” “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby,” “A Couple Of Swells” (again with Van), “Over The Rainbow.”
Judy filled the venue to its capacity (1,700 people showed up in spite of the snowstorm) and was paid $25,000 for the engagement, $15,000 in advance (the club’s manager claimed 40k). Unfortunately, this was another engagement fraught with drama. On March 30, Judy only got through the first two songs of her act when she announced that she had laryngitis and had been fired, then left the stage. She had developed severe colitis before opening but had been able to get through the shows until this night. The newspapers reported that she had been an hour late for the show and that the club’s manager, Ben Maksik, noted that when she showed up she was obviously sick. Both he and Judy’s agent tried to keep her from going on stage to no avail. Maksik also said he advanced Judy $40,000, which Judy denied.
May 11, 1958
MINNESOTA STATE CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION, MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA
Judy returned to her home state of Minnesota for the Minnesota State Centennial Celebration, singing to a crowd of 20,000. This was the last time she performed in Minnesota. She was backed by the 32-piece Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. Judy sang several songs in the sweltering heat.
At one point Judy asked for a glass of water and Congressman Walter Judd, who was also a doctor, rushed from the back row to the stage and handed Judy a glass with orange juice in it. “What’s this?” Judy asked. “Orange juice, I think,” replied Judd. “Are you sure?” said Judy as she sipped it, then she said, “You’re right!” Judy then sang “Over the Rainbow” completing her set. Offstage she said “I’ve never been so scared in my life. I’m afraid I just wasn’t good.” After assurances that she was great, she signed autographs. Judy was expected back on stage for the finale, joining in the singing of “God Bless America” but she failed to appear. She was suffering from severe laryngitis and had been since the day before. She most likely needed to rest her voice.
Listen to selections from this concert here:
Here I Am – Judy stops midway, joking about missing a lyric and said “Isn’t this terrible? And I was trying to be so classy!”
Rock-A-Bye Your Baby
Over The Rainbow
CAPITOL RECORDS “JUDY IN LOVE”
On May 19, 1958, Judy returned to Capitol Records in Hollywood, California, to begin work on her next album for the label, “Judy In Love,” arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle. Judy had sessions on May 19, May 26, and June 17. The mono version album was released on November 3, 1958, the stereo version was released on February 16, 1959.
“Judy in Love” is the only album Judy recorded for Capitol that has a song that is slightly different on the mono and stereo editions, “Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart.”
July 23, 1958
THE COCONUT GROVE, HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA
The premiere of Judy’s new 60-minute act, with just her and the band, no opening or supporting acts. Judy gave one show a night during the week and two on the weekends of this two-week engagement. Judy’s lineup included: “The Garland Overture,” “When You’re Smiling” (premiered at this engagement), “Day In, Day Out,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart,” “Purple People Eater,” “Judy’s Olio,” “Do It Again,” When The Sun Comes Out,” “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby,” “Over The Rainbow,” “After You’ve Gone,” “Chicago,” A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow,” “Liza,” “Me And My Shadow,” and “Swanee.”
The closing night’s show on August 5, 1958, was recorded by Capitol Records. This was Judy’s first legitimate and official “live” album. Concert albums were relatively new at this time as it was difficult to get a good recording with the equipment of the day. Unfortunately, Judy was suffering laryngitis for this performance and isn’t at her peak vocal power.
An abridged version of the show was released in mono on February 2, 1959, on a single LP. The stereo version was released on February 16, 1959. On March 4, 2008, an expanded version was released, remastered from the 3-track master tapes. That release included two songs that were not on the original LP but were released on the 1991 CD set, “The One And Only” (“Day In, Day Out,” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”) and “Do It Again” which was also missing from the original LP. Finally, the complete “Overture” was also included.
Here are previously unreleased 2010 remasters of selections from Judy’s final night of her two-week run at The Coconut Grove in Hollywood, California. The Capitol LP of this performance was the very first “Judy Garland in Concert” album.
Day In, Day Out
I Can’t Give You Anything But Love
Do It Again
When The Sun Comes Out
After You’ve Gone
September 4, 1958
ORCHESTRA HALL, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS
Judy had the biggest advance sale in the hall’s history, at the top price of $7.50. 17,500 people showed up with another 6,000 being turned away. Judy performed the same show she had just debuted at The Coconut Grove. She had the same song list noted for The Grove above, until after “Over The Rainbow.” She added “Chicago” which was the new Roger Edens arrangement which she would become famous for singing. She then would follow with ‘How About Me,” “Swanee,” and “After You’ve Gone.” The opening night was a benefit for the Chicago Home for Girls. Nelson Riddle conducted the thirty-two-piece orchestra. Charles Walters (who directed Judy in Easter Parade) did the staging and Roger Edens provided the special material and arranging. Comedian Alan King opened the first act. Judy performed the second, with a three-song stanza for Nelson Riddle and His Orchestra. All of the shows were at 8:30 p.m., plus a Saturday Matinee on September 6 at 2:30 p.m. The week’s gross was $78,000, including $57,000 in advance sales.
After the show, Judy enjoyed a post-show party given by Chicago’s Charley Wacker, who must have been a junior as the senior Charley Wacker, who was a famous Chicago baseball player, had passed in 1948.
Listen to Judy’s version of “Purple People Eater” from the September 9th show here:
October 1, 1958
THE SANDS, LAS VEGAS NEVADA
Another return to Vegas for a two-week engagement. Judy gave the same one-act colo performance that she had been performing. Judys show was forty minutes long and included (in the following order): “Garland Overture,” “When You’re Smiling,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart,” “Purple People Eater,” “Judy’s Olio,” “Do It Again,” “The Man That Got Away,” “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby,” “Over The Rainbow,” and “Swanee.”
Many stars attended Judy’s shows during the run, including Debbie Reynolds, Betty Hutton, and on the final night (October 14), the “Sinatra Special” bus loaded with stars (including Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Gary Cooper, David Niven, Ray Anthony).
CAPITOL RECORDS “THE LETTER”
On January 15 & 16, 1959, Judy recorded the Capitol Records concept album, “The Letter,” with John Ireland, the Ralph Brewster Singers, and Gordon Jenkins’ Orchestra. The album was released on May 4, 1959, and re-released as “Our Love Letter” on September 3, 1963.
The album was unique at the time being a love story told through song and narration. The original release included a pouch on the cover that contained the “letter” referenced in the narrative (see below).
April 27, 1959 through May 3, 1959
THE STANLEY OPERA HOUSE, BALTIMORE, MARYLAND
Judy had spent March and most of April 1959 in rehearsals for a new show and a new tour, her “Opera House tour.” This Baltimore engagement premiered Judy’s new production, grossing $65,000 in the 2,800 seat house. Tickets were $6.50. Judy premiered a new “Born In A Trunk” segment which she lip synced to. She received raves but also some negative press for lip-synching. The blocking of the number was changed and Judy then sang the number live.
May 11, 1959 through May 17, 1959
THE METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE, NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Judy was the first female “pop” singer to play “The Met.” The run was a benefit for the Children’s Asthma Research Institute and Hospital in December, Colorado. The show grossed a whopping $190,000. On opening night Judy was given a citation by New York Mayor Robert Wagner for “distinguished and exceptional service,” for her shows and for her charitable work.
The rundown of the show was as follows: Act One: “Overture” (not the “Garland Overture”), “At The Opera” (a set up for Judy’s appearance by the chorus, who sang to her “You look like a singer: Are you a new Mimi from ‘La Boheme?'” Judy replied, “My name is Ju-u-dy … but my children call em ‘Mama'”). This led into “I Happen To Like New York,” “Almost LIke Being In Love?/”This Can’t Be love” (medley), “Wonderful Guy” (with reprise), “John Bubbles’s number “Me And My Shadow” (Judy would silently join him as his “shadow”), Judy and Bubbles then dance to “A Shine On Your Shoes,” Judy then danced alone on “Shoe Shine Boy” with the chorus. Comedian Alan King closed the first act. Act Two: “Overture” (again, not the “Garland Overture”), “When You’re Smiling,” “The Man That Got Away,” selections from Judy’s recent Capitol concept album, “The Letter,” (“Ricky’s,” “The Worst Kind of Man” with the dancers, “Red Balloon,” and “Come Back”), “Bubbles and King then performed together, “Born In A Trunk,” production number, a “Quick Change” with Bubbles, “A Couple of Swells” (Judy and Alan King), “Judy’s Olio,” “Over The Rainbow,” and “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby.”
The opening night party took place at Sherry’s where Judy wore the same gown she wore when singing “Melancholy Baby” in A Star Is Born.
Here are some recordings of Judy’s shows at the Met.
Almost Like Being In Love/This Can’t Be Love (this is a recording from Judy’s 1959 opera house tour, although it’s unclear at which venue this was recorded. It could be from this Met appearance.)
The Man That Got Away
Wonderful Guy (newly upgraded sound provided by Nick Zebrowski – thank you Nick!)
When You’re Smiling
July 1, 1959 through July 11, 1959
THE WAR MEMORIAL OPERA HOUSE, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
Judy added the new version of “San Francisco” (“I never will forget … Jeanette MacDonald!”) arranged by Roger Edens as her final encore. The song stayed in her act for the rest of her life.
During Judy’s appearance a lawsuit was filed by songwriters Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II, Chapelle & Co. Inc., and the New World Music Corp. against Judy and husband Sid Luft for using four songs in the show without their permission and without royalty payments. A U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs resulting in Judy and Sid ordered to pay $1,000 in damages. The four songs in question were: “A Wonderful Guy,” “A Couple of Swells,” “Lady Be Good,” and “This Can’t Be Love.”
October 18, through October 25, 1959
THE SAHARA HOTEL, LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
Judy filled in for an ailing Donald O’Connor. She completed a week-long engagement.
Judy ended the decade on a precarious note.
November 8, 1959: Judy attended the Friar’s Roast for Dean Martin in Los Angeles, California.
November 17, 1959: Judy attended a party given by Elsa Maxwell for Aly Khan in New York.
November 18, 1959: Judy entered Doctor’s Hospital in New York City. She was near death, her weight had ballooned up to more than 180 pounds and her liver was inflamed more than four times its normal size. She began emergency treatment for hepatitis, but her condition was increasingly critical.
Twenty quarts of fluids were slowly drained from her body. Judy began to recover but was told (at the ripe old age of 37), that she would be a semi-invalid for the rest of her life and would never be able to work again. The rest and time off turned out to be exactly what she needed. In six months she defied the doctor’s prognosis and entered an unprecedented career renaissance.